Joe Versus the Manufacturer: Ethics Questions, Round Three

Editor's note: The following letters are in response to Mark Skaer's editorial "A Question of Ethics," Aug. 14.


Contractors not only have to deal with the added cost of having their highly trained long-term employees cherry picked by their suppliers, but they are also losing their employees to their customers as well. It is becoming more and more apparent to the customer that the fastest and least costly means to getting up to speed in the operation in the service and support of their new high-tech equipment is to hire the contractor's most experienced people away from the contractor after they are trained by the contractor.

This rapidly changing cutting-edge technology is slowly changing and redefining our value system, our code of ethics, and what is and is not an acceptable business practice. Technology is drastically changing the way we do business everywhere.

If you are a business owner that employs and trains highly skilled workers, you are a target. Unfortunately, like it or not, that is the way it is.

Gene J. Yparrea Jr.
C.E.M. Project Operations Manager
Servi-Tech Controls Inc.
Fresno, Calif.


Contractor Joe should consider four specific tactics to bring this manufacturer in line.

1. Consult with an attorney asking about "tortuous interference with business" and see if he has a case.

2. Sign his employees, when hired, to a noncompete agreement (if allowed by the state).

3. Sign this vendor and all others to a confidentiality agreement before continuing business with them.

4. Have the employee agree to a value for the training received and have them sign a note requiring repayment if they exit your company.

At Airtime 500 and One Hour Air Conditioning, we have had two specific cases over the years when this happened to clients, and in both cases, they were resolved in the contractor's favor.

In one case, the manufacturer not only recruited our contractor's employees, they actually mailed his customers (from their warranty list the contractor provided where he had installed equipment and sold extended warranties) stating the work could only be provided by the manufacturer in the future.

With our encouragement, the manufacturer remailed letters to those same customers admitting the error of its ways.

The reality is that there is power in numbers.

Jim Abrams
Clockwork Home Services
Sarasota, Fla.

[Editor's note: Jim Abrams is not an attorney, nor should anything written in his letter be construed as legal counsel. Laws can vary from state to state and city to city, so consult with your attorney to understand the relevant laws in your jurisdiction.]


Joe is a contractor who has trained his help because it's cheaper than hiring an accredited, experienced tech in the first place. Joe tells himself what a great guy he is for training his help, but in return he expects a cheap date for the rest of his employee's career.

People who train their own help rarely let them know how good they are because they think that if the tech knew then they would want to get compensated accordingly.

Oh no!

Techs eventually figure out what Joe has been taking in from his customers and paying his sales personnel. Then they start asking about what the competition is paying their techs. Everything comes unraveled in Joe's big plan as his greed has returned him to square one.

The manufacturer figures out who the good techs are and does some cherry picking. Good for the guys who know how to treat their techs. Good for the tech.

Techs want respect, fair compensation, and room for advancement. Many good techs may never see a chance for advancement with guys like Joe. The bottom line: This is America and Joe doesn't own anybody. He had his chance to do the right thing and blew it.

James Meeks
Managing Member
Meeks Air Conditioning & Refrigeration LLC
Dripping Springs, Texas

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Publication date: 09/18/2006